Credit: P. Jenniskens/NASA ARC

Meteorites recovered in California have yielded details about their collision-filled journey from the Solar System's asteroid belt.

The fragments (pictured) originated from a meteoroid whose fiery descent lit up the night sky over San Francisco in 2012. Peter Jenniskens of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and his colleagues analysed the six fragments and concluded that the meteoroid is one of several thought to have come from a parent asteroid that shattered in a collision 470 million years ago. This meteoroid broke apart again in collisions 9 million and 4 million years ago. Measurements of accumulated radiation in the rock suggest that it suffered a final collision within the past 100,000 years.

The team also detected traces of carbon-rich organic molecules that somehow managed to survive.

Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 49, 1388–1425 (2014)